A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
Montage Arc, Now, theoretically…

Naruto Fan Fiction!
Adventure! SI-OC!

(Title)

"A Song for Them"

A/N: I would like to begin by saying how very much the world sucks at the moment. Blatant and disgusting displays of racism, violence, willful ignorance and politics. (God, I can't stand politics they make me want to curl up into a ball and listen to Rob Thomas and try to sooth my soul—) And a worldwide pandemic that has taken a baseball bat upside everyone's daily live and upset millions of lives. So that's been happening and I'm still waiting for the director of this doomsday movie to call for break. It's like when we started up 2020 someone started it on Insanity Difficulty and then broke the last controller, then spilled soda on the system and topped it all off by throwing the tv out the window.

Haaah…. I won't get into why I personally haven't been active with my stories lately (my internet was shut off for a while, goddamn it) but I have good news as I have a shit ton plotted and rearranged around! In fact, I squished what was supposed to be the next… nine chapters, did I say? Into THREE. Three chapters packed full of content and foreshadowing for your reading pleasure~ ...I just need to finish connecting all he POV's in the next two chapters before moving onto the Finals. Hahhh... so much more work to do...

So, to conclude my ramble! Even with the world looking like it's ending outside? Don't give up hope, you guys. Stay strong and be there for one another… at a safe distance. Yanno, cause ah—But you—you know what I mean. Now go read. Shoo. Off with you.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto' or any of the canon characters! But I would, if I could. For now though, you'll just have to deal with Sora slowly losing her grip as Naruto tries to keep her fed.

WARNING! RATED M! For cursing, violence, excess of cuteness. The usual. The beginning also is not, uh, happy? You get more Ikari in her… pit of darkness there. Have… fun?

Montage Arc,

Chapter Fifty-One: "Now, theoretically…"

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it." -Robin Williams

—(Flipping further into the journal, the entries retain their usual conciseness, but the writing slowly appears to become more expressive. Less wooden and bland. After a few years have passed, the accounts stop for several months before picking up again with new intensity)—

—Entry 320

December 20th, Saturday
Snowing, but warm inside.
(1573 Days since meeting Orochimaru-sama)

Today is a very special day.

After nearly two years of study and configuration, today marks the completion of the Soul Transference Seal.

This Seal will grant Orochimaru-sama's long sought and dearest wish. It will enable him to set aside the limitations that were put on humans by nature and extend his lifespan far beyond what any being has witnessed since the days of the Sage of Six Paths. Tonight, Orochimaru-sama returns from the Lead and we shall place it upon a potential host.

To this end, I intend to offer myself to Orochimaru-sama to act as his vessel.

I have thought very long about what sort of host would be best suited to Orochimaru-sama and it only makes sense. Uzumaki were renown across the continent for their raw stamina and longevity, not to dismiss the fact that I have maintained my physical condition well over the years. Orochimaru-sama had once estimated some time ago thatshould I continue to maintain my healthI would live until I am over a hundred-and-fifty years old. It made some sense to me, as the Elders of Uzushio had always looked like they were centuries old. What had shocked me was that Orochimaru-sama expressed envy at my estimated lifespan.

It only makes sense to give him what is already his to take.

The Transference will not be an immediate process. Orochimaru-sama still has his obligations to the Leaf and many more years left in his current body, but when the time arrives… I will finally fulfill my purpose. The reason for which I survived when all others had died. But I also feel that more than anything in the world, I want to become one with Orochimaru-sama, to stay by his side and watch as he fulfills all his of ambitions for the rest of time.

With him, I will be able to live in the world again.

For so long I have worked in the safety of darkness, hidden by Orochimaru-sama in places where the world could not touch me and I could try to heal the wounds I feel deep within my heart. It has been years and I still tremble at the thought of rejoining the world, no matter how long I train myself or how efficiently I can incapacitate a man. I find myself drawn back into the comfort the shadows give me each time. Orochimaru-sama assures me that I never have to life out of the shadows again so long as I followed him, but…

I long to live beneath the sky again. To lie under the stars without fear. Swim in the ocean without dread dragging me to it's depths. I hope, that with Orochimaru-sama's strength… that I will regain some of what I have lost.

Perspective:
(Anchor)

Ikari, Age 17—Land of Wind Base
(Several dozen miles outside of Ceramic Village)

I sat alone in my quarters. The sun had set an hour ago and I was sure the stars were shining brightly in the sky outside, but here I sat in my dim room filled with books and papers. Orochimaru-sama would be here by midnight at the earliest. It wouldn't be long now until I had the Transference Seal placed.

I looked down at the long ribbon of red fabric in my hand, running my fingers over the silky surface. It was made of a specialty chakra-infused cotton grown in the valley between Fire and Wind, making the material extremely durable. So much so that I imagine it will last the rest of my natural life.

It was perfect.

I wrapped the ribbon around my fist and pressed it to my lips, murmuring the words softly. "Invariant… unfading… boundless… from this night forward, to the day the tides reclaim my body, I swear to devote both body and soul to Orochimaru-sama, and his dreams. I will withstand and outlast any rocks I am cast upon and remain unbroken, for him."

There would not be another person in my life that I would devote myself to, I've known this for a long time now. I was far too broken to indulge in the freedom of dreaming of far-off things that I once had when I was a child, but I was content with this. It was not the same kind of love that Kushina-nee and I had once whispered and imagined, but it was still a profound love to me all the same. I loved Orochimaru-sama beyond words could describe and with my entire soul. He is my Savior, my Teacher, my friend.

He is the only thing I have left to cherish in this world…

My chest ached faintly, familiar and old.

I pushed the feeling away and lit a candle. Pulling back my hair, fingers carding through long red strands, I unwound the ribbon from my hand and began to tie it.

"To you, I promise my every breath, my mind and skills, to become an instrument to carry out your will… to you, I promise all that I am."

There was nothing else that I wanted in my life, nothing but to repay the debt I owe to Orochimaru-sama for not allowing my life to flicker out so pitifully all those years ago. He pulled me from the ruins of who I used to be and showed me things beyond my imagination. I would repay him by using every one of my days to bring him closer to realizing his ambitions.

I touched the ribbon in my hair, feeling strangely at peace.

This would be the symbol of my love, and my life's purpose.

—Entry

The Seal failed.

I can never be his host.

The Seal was a failure to him.

I am a failure to him.

I no longer have a purpose.

I am

—(The page is torn across the bottom, the rest of it was covered in a series of manic writings. The hand was rushed and frantic, repeating the same word on the parchment over and over again: "worthless, worthless, worthless")—

Perspective:
(Sky)

Sora, June 17th—(1:21 AM)—Home

Gaara's teal eyes stared at me, expression blank as fresh parchment under the light of the moon. In my hands I held out a book, my hopes and wishes probably written all over my face as we shared another one of our every-other-nightly staring contests.

Eventually, I knew that I would - maybe, probably - get to see him blink first during these unofficial contests.

As it did last time, his sand slid up my arm and lifted the book from my hand. I ignored the goosebumps left on my arm, watching with wide eyes as the sand floated the distance of the roof and stopped in front of Gaara's face. He didn't throw it back at me so I took that as a win—Score! I carefully did not do a fist pump. I was far too mature for that, yes. The Seven Voyages of Sinbad has always been a good read during those long nights. I can't wait to find out what he thinks of it, if he reads it and doesn't, yanno, turn it into tanuki litter.

Baby steps after all.

Perspective:
友達 (Friend)

He was up before dawn today, again.

I pulled my open Icha-Icha novel just far enough down my face to see that my young Uchiha student was in the middle of doing a handstand on the most precarious-looking rock we had up on our little plateau. It's interesting that even though I'd given him all the instruction necessary for his Nature Transformation training and the go ahead to focus on it, he was still working on his primary physical conditioning. It showed that he acknowledges there's still room for further improvement. The kid was a natural genius, yeah. There was no question to how quickly and easily he innately understood Ninjutsu technique before implementing it himself, but Sasuke is—as Gai would so boldly put it, a genius of Hard Work, as well.

Vaguely, a part of me realizes that I probably shouldn't be enabling, much less encouraging his obsessive training habits, but... seeing Sasuke's relentless drive towards self-excellence reminded me of my younger self to an unsettling amount.

To be more specific: The me right after I lost Obito.

It doesn't take much guesswork to figure out the increased motivation of late. Out of the three of them, I think that Naruto was the only one who didn't come out of their encounter with Orochimaru deeply effected. Sora was the most obviously traumatized, but I also think that Sasuke had been more effected than he lets on. I could see it in his eyes when he looked at her at the Tower and again in the hospital. I recognized that look very well. It only made more sense after it was revealed that he had been the original target, and Sora had just gotten in the way at the right - or wrong - time.

He's taken on the burden of feeling responsible for what happened to them.

Knowing exactly how that felt, how in the hell was I supposed to tell him to take it easy?

It was as I was deeply contemplating these meaningful questions and idly wondering just how hard Kushina-san would've hit me for my hypocrisy as a teacher, when Ūhei decided to drop in. Sasuke had moved onto chakra exercises that involved climbing the nearby cliff-face by only applying chakra to his fingertips when the greyhound approached. I gave up the pretense of sleeping and pulled the Icha-Icha from my eyes, greeting my summons with a nod.

"Ūhei, you're back. Did Ozomi have what I asked for?"

"Your guy finally found the records you were asking about, but before I get into that," he lifted his hind leg to scratch at his ear. "I also checked in on your problem pup while I waited for that guy to look up the records you asked for."

When I was tempted to ask; 'which one' I had a sort of realization that I consider all three of them as problem pups. Huh. I focused less on the implications of that than I should probably have and moved the conversation forward.

"Yeah?" I said instead of asking for specification. It's either he or she that has been troubling lately—unless there have been some drastic lifestyle choices made while we've been away, but I doubt it. My greyhound harrumphed and looked vaguely disapproving.

Maybe I should've asked Pakkun for his help instead, he's much less openly judgmental about my teaching style.

"The girl might look okay on the surface most the time, but she's running on fumes, boss. She's gonna crash hard in a matter of days if she keeps going the way she is. That sapling you left in your place doesn't have a rein on her." he shook his head. "It's only a matter of time, boss."

Ah. Sora is the trouble pup. I should've expected it.

Eh, it was a 50-50 chance there.

"Yeah," I said, carefully not looking over at the Uchiha that is currently trying his best to discover new ways to train himself to exhaustion. "She tends to do that."

So Sora was overworking herself again. Well, I had anticipated that was a possibility even though I had hoped that Tenzō would've balanced her out. Guess not. I reached up and rubbed the back of my head.

Maybe it was about time to go and do that...?

"About the records, boss, there was little snag after the guy found them," Ūhei followed up. I arched my brow as I waited. A snag? That didn't bode well. "Your guy said there was only one reference to something that matches your description from a couple decades ago, and he can't get his hands on the original mission report."

I frowned. "Why not?"

"Because it's buried somewhere in the Uchiha Clan's personal archives."

I stared, a little incredulous.

Ūhei didn't take back what he said as some sort of bad attempt at humor. Then I sighed. Because of course the mystery around Sora's suddenly developed and mysterious Bloodline Limit should only get more complicated and potentially awkward, before there were any real answers found.

Of course. I really should've expected it.

Perspective:
夕顔 (Moon-Flower)

I, along with the other Squadron Leaders, stood at attention as we waited for Captain Tiger's ultimate decision on what to do about the prisoner who escaped our supposedly highly secure facility. The Captain's face was grim, his mask sitting just off the side of his head as he inspected the holding cell where we had been keeping the prisoner.

From the broken manacles and the foiled security Fūinjutsu that had bound him, it painted a simple scene: The Fūinjutsu had been disrupted from an outside source, allowing the prisoner use of his chakra that he then used to break from his manacles and escape his cell. From there it is assumed that he fled HQ disguised as an ANBU agent, as Agent Hawk had reported a suspicious figure leaving around 2 AM last night. Even a rookie would be able to piece this together, but there was just one thing that I quite didn't understand about the scene...

Why was there only a single tongue left?

Nothing else. There were no bodies or any trace of our agents that had been on duty at the time or any other signs that there had been a struggle of any significance. Nothing but a few drops of blood and a tongue that had been expertly removed and then cauterized to stop the bleeding. It was good work, I had to admit, if this was his doing then Yakushi Kabuto knows his stuff - I remembered the diagnostic justu I ran on the Captain's little girlfriend from all those years ago, how her bones had shown all those breakages and repairs. Has he always been such a proficient medic? - and from the lack of blood, it even wouldn't be so far-fetched to imagine that the owner of the tongue was still alive even after losing the muscle. Though, that wasn't the point of why this was left behind.

It had been left as a message. But for whom?

"Send his physical description to T&I to be dispersed among the patrols," Captain Tiger ordered, sliding his mask back into place. "I also want another thorough sweep of the Headquarters done within the next hour. The Agents are either dead or compromised, they didn't disappear into the air and I want to know which it is."

Wolf and Bear reacted immediately, leaving to carry out Captain Tiger's orders while I hesitated behind. I glanced out of the corner of my mask towards the Captain. He was still staring at the broken manacles that laid on the cell floor. Out of anyone, the Captain probably wants to hunt down Yakushi and put him away again. But with the Chūnin Finals coming up and the intel we're getting from the border patrols, we don't have the resources to chase down this particular rat today. Not until after Konoha had dealt with whatever the former Sannin has in plan for the Village.

Still…

My eyes fell back down to the tongue.

"Captain, can I ask?" I ventured. He turned his head towards me and was silent. I almost thought he wouldn't give an answer until Captain Tiger seemed to sigh, his posture sinking slightly.

"It means," he reached down and picked up the muscle, turning it over to reveal the ink tattooed onto it. "That Konoha's darkest shadows still have secrets they don't want to see the light of day."

Perspective:
(Sky)

Sora, June 19th—(10:35 AM)—The Golden Treat Dumpling Shop
(Days Until Invasion: 13)

'Laxatives!' I cried in my mind.

Ehh. Kinda of first-grade, isn't it? I still think that crazy glue in the sandals would be better. And funnier to watch. Heheh... I can already picture him hopping on one foot, trying to get it off.

'Please tell me you are actually joking?' I asked snobbishly. Idly using my chakra to stir the lukewarm tea in my cup, more focused on my inner thoughts. 'Not only are Laxatives PRIME revenge material, I'll have you know—you can never go wrong with a classic—but there will be absolutely NO watching as Stick reaps what he's sewn. He'll already know who is responsible and Byakugan his way through whatever walls that stand between us in order to kill me. If it's a nice and potent laxative then it could be easily brushed off as food poisoning or something so that neither he nor Mouse will ever know our hand was involved!'

Terra made an annoyed sound. Yah, sure! But ya have to admit that the challenge of actually get

Ugh. Do You Both Intend To Prattle On Until The Sunlight Is Gone? came the cantankerous hiss of my one-third. Another pair of customers waved to Takara-san as they left the shop. I didn't look at them and watched the dark liquid spin it it's cup.

'Oh?' I hummed, finally sipping my tea and regretting it. Still too hot. 'Then do you have any brilliant ideas, peanut gallery? Or do you just wanna whine...'

A chill ran up my spine and goosebumps broke across my arms as she answered. The Most Straightforward Method Of Retribution Would Be To Break His Hands. Obviously.

Terra and I were both silent.

I... I really shouldn't've expected anything less, honestly.

Yeah. Me too…

I pulled myself out of my inner musings to realize that Sakura was staring very intensely at my hand. It took me a moment, but I wasn't overtly weirded out by it. She noticed I was looking at her looking at me and there was a thoughtful little frown on her face.

"Sora-senpai," she murmured. "I didn't know your chakra control was that good."

I frowned at that.

It wasn't. Not really. I just had more practice using this method of chakra control practice than others. Sure, it's not that often I notice other ninja doing it this way but that didn't mean my control was that good. I had infused enough chakra into the tea that I could manipulate the liquid freely - Tea-bending, of a sorts - I flexed my fingers and watched as the matcha-flavored water flowed freely around my hand without touching my skin. I remember back with Kaa-chan that it took me a full week to learn how to stick a leaf to my forehead with chakra while Sakura had the training exercise down in twenty minutes during class.

But that was history, now we were learning new things. I nodded toward the collection of notes beside her empty plate and asked how her studies were going. She jumped as she was pulled out of whatever thoughts she was in and reached for the Tome.

"Oh! Yeah, uhm, actually there was something I was wondering if you'd explain since you're here..." she lifted the Tome from her lap and placed it on the table before pointing down at the open page. Ah, she'd gotten there already. Impressive. That's a few chapters ahead of where she should be in the study plan. Green eyes looked at me in question. "I thought you mentioned that there was no classifications of Fūinjutsu users. So what does this mean?"

Ah, she's this far along in the Tome already? She's making good progress, then. I picked my pen up, writing down on my pad. "Close. I said there was no such thing as a Fūinjutsu Master, and if you want to get technical then there is no 'official' classifications. Just what I have named as Specialists and Jacks. A Specialist is what it sounds like, a practitioner that excels in one of the Sealing Schools. The Jacks are a nickname I call people that work with each of the Schools but don't specialize in any of them. Like myself."

She nodded along, her brow furrowed slightly. "Oh, I guess that makes sense. Just like some doctors specialize in certain parts of the body or treatment while some practice general medicine."

"Exactly like that! Good analogy!" I praised, causing her to look pleased with herself like we were back in the Academy and it was Iruka giving her points for a test passed with flying colors. I continued my explanation. "From what I've learned about Fūinjutsu is that everyone has a certain affinity towards one of the Schools to make it easier to become a Specialist, whether it's the Space-Time, Force and Release, Barrier, or the Elemental or Physical Manipulation branches. It depends on how someone's mind perceives a complex problem. Like, you can ask three people for their opinion on a subject and get three completely different answers. I have a natural affinity for Barriers but I also dabble in each of the other Schools, making me more of a Jack. Naruto also has a natural talent for each of the branches as well but hasn't yet shown a particular affinity for any of them, oddly enough."

"Naruto knows Fūinjutsu?!" she shouted out, causing me to jerk back in surprise from the volume. Dang. That was Naruto-level surprise. She flushed in embarrassment predictably from her outburst and I smiled ruefully as I corrected her.

"No, he doesn't. But he's got the basic understanding of it from watching me for years. Doesn't mean that he knows how to create a Seal from scratch though, just how operate them." Seriously. The Hero actually can decipher what type of Seal he's looking at as long as he recognizes the characters used in the creation, but that's usually because he has associated them with ramen flavors. Ah, he is so adorable sometimes. "He's actually the one I made this Tome for. Just in case he ever wanted to learn, but it's only now finally getting some use out of it!"

Minty green eyes looked at me oddly and Sakura's posture stiffened up awkwardly. "...you... you really do care for Naruto a lot, huh?" she asked softly.

I frowned in confusion. What kind of question was that? Seeing my look, she forced herself to relax and began to say something when—Sakura let out a terrified shriek as a fucking Irabu sprung the fuck out of nowhere and—something grabbed my leg—Oh, SHIT

I Repeat: The Breaking Of Limb Would Be BloodlessMostlyAnd It Would Satisfy Your Pathetic Self-Serving Moralistic Ideology.

I let out a heavy sigh from my place over Anko's shoulder. The days are long and the sugar is not strong enough for this. Not nearly strong enough. I wish there was coffee. I really do.

Candy Ass. It insulted once more, just because it could.

Anko has kidnapped me. Again. She's literally slung me over her shoulder like a fresh kill. Because surprise attacks in the middle of the Village was something we were doing now. After Irabu subdued me and dragged me back to his mistress, she had looked down at me with barely contained irritation and threw me over her shoulder with a muttered curse aimed at me. I think. I didn't really hear her after I started internally cursing out that devil spawn named Irabu. I swear, I was going to get a smoke bomb filled with chili powder and introduce that overgrown belt to a spicy hell.

As of yet the Snake Woman hasn't actually told me why or where we were going but I knew were we heading deeper into the Village center rather than out towards the Training Grounds, so that's already different than our usual lessons in sadism and brutality. At this point in our relationship I figure that it's just better to go with it instead of fight her every step of the way. I end up with less bruises and concussions at the end of the day.

Oh! Rhyme!

"Yo, Mitarashi! What brings you—is that Sora-san?" asked a surprised and slightly familiar voice. I frowned and twisted my neck around to see none other than Kamizuki Izumo gawking back at me. I blinked twice. My eyes shifted up to the large, average and very, very, very familiar—and oh my god, what are we doing here?

Anko threw me on the ground at Kamizuki-san's feet and I just stayed there, staring up at the building behind him. The adults began talking but my mind was racing about all the reasons why we could possibly be here. We were in the sole industrial district of the Village, near the water purification plant and across the plaza from the Konoha Aviary. The large, yellowing building we were in front of was the operating headquarters for none other than The Konoha Barrier Squad.

Anko's boot knocked into my ribs, "Up."

I got up obediently.

Anko shoved me towards the door. "Move."

I moved.

I went forward, following a distressed Kamizuki-san through the front door of the building and down a long and narrow hallway. My heart was skipping beats in anticipation until we came to another stop in front of a large, metallic door. The Chūnin then preformed a specific set of hand-seals that I wasn't allowed to see and the door opened into a large chamber. My eyes and heart eagerly took in the sight of the room I've been trying to get into since the day I discovered it existed!

There were two levels that made up the building, with the second floor being much smaller and able to overlook the first. The upstairs floor was a ready response area where the Interception team could deploy from at any time the Detection Division sensed someone entering the Village! There was a large balcony that let daylight and a summer breeze drift in, sweeping up the smells of ink and moss. Ducts of water streamed down the sides of the walls and flowed down into the basin in center of the chamber, where a large sphere of water sat floating above it: Konoha's Detection Barrier—One of the most sophisticated pieces of Fūinjutsu that has ever graced the eyes of modern people. It was commissioned by the Nidaime Hokage, Senju Tobirama, right before the official declaration of First Ninja War for the protection of the Village against raids and was designed by none other than one of the greatest Barrier Sealing Practitioners of their Era: Uzumaki Mito.

Please don't let this be a dream. Please, please, please, someone tell me that this was actually happening and I wasn't just imagining it?

"Get out of the damn door, brat!" Anko's boot connected with my ass and sent me flying out of the doorway and into the room. I landed flat on my face but my annoyance was quickly quashed by my realization. I flipped over on my back and grinned wildly as the pain in my butt and on my face told me that I wasn't dreaming at all.

This was really, actually happening!

The Konoha Barrier Squad. Made up of the Detection Division and the Interception Division, charged with monitoring The SWS—Sensory Water Sphere. This place is probably the reason why Konoha was so prepared for an attack from outside forces, like Sand and Sound. My mind began spinning now that I had eyes on the SWS and the array that I could see inscribed into the floor tiles. Oh my gosh! I've heard before that the Barrier was capable of tracking the chakra signature of any unauthorized living creature that passes its threshold, but I wonder... was it possible the Barrier could detect not only the location of an invader's chakra but also it's size? That would be a really handy way to tell the difference between civilians and trained shinobi.

"Who the hell let you in?!" screeched an authoritative female voice. I bounced back up to my feet and my eyes followed the sound of the voice up to the second level of the chamber, a grin on my face. There were a number of different reactions to my entrance.

For one: Kotetsu Hagane, partner of the long-suffering Kamizuki and member of the Interception Division, burst into raucous laughter when he saw me.

Hyuga Nao, the no-nonsense lieutenant of the Interception Division, silently sipped his tea and pretended he was alone in the world.

Tsutsuchi Suga, newest member of the Interception Division and an absolute little cutie, gave a discreet wave when she saw me.

And then there was Yamanaka Inomayu, the slightly intimidating Leader of the Interception Division and Ino's Aunt, who cursed under her breath and aimed an angry green-eyed glare our way. Or, my way, if one were to be specific. Kamizuki-san started sweating bullets as his Captain approached but Anko took the lead, heading off the very irate-looking blonde woman.

"Mitarashi," Captain Inomayu growled, and wow. That's a lot of hostility. Has Anko pissed off everyone in the Village? "What the hell are you thinking by bringing an unauthorized genin into one of the most sensitive facilities in the whole damned Village?!"

Ahhh, so she was mad about me. That's fair. Inomayu has always been against me from day one where everyone else in the Division has accepted one of my bribes of homemade treats. Even the Hyūga accepted my bribe—I still wasn't allowed entrance, but I had gotten on everyone's good sides!

Anko gave her a saccharin smile, meaning it was sweet and fake as hell. She pulled out a folder from her coat and held it out towards the Yamanaka. Anko's grin was tight and showed a lot of teeth, Inomayu didn't give any sign of cowing to the threat lurking before her.

"Captain Morino's full roster for the additional patrols, as you requested," she supplied with that unnervingly cheerful grin that masked the prickling rage that was building up inside. What the hell...? "I'll be needing the required paperwork for the official request of classified documentation, along with any reports your division has filled out in the last 24-hours. Hokage-sama wants all divisions to be up-to-date on the recent arrivals."

Inomayu swiped the folder and gave it a once over, narrowing her pupil-less green eyes at Anko. "Since when are you a paper jockey, Mitarashi?"

Anko's face twitched. "Since I was placed on probation from active duty." she hissed through her grinning teeth. "In addition to being regulated to fucking mail duty, I have to train this brat here so she doesn't get turned into kitty litter during the Exam Finals—so excuse me if tryin' to multitask twists your panties in a bunch!"

She was still grinning widely as Kamizuki and I both inched away in, well, I don't want to say fear—But yeah, we were pretty intimidated.

Captain Inomayu looked at us sharply out of the corner of her eye, almost in warning but when she turned her attention back to Anko and started talk about reports we scurried away. He made a beeline towards the rest of his squad upstairs where I could see a wall lined with equipment and a little kitchenette nearby, along with a tea table and a bookshelf. - That must've been where the Interception Team spent their downtime - I then saw Kamizuki hand his partner some cash and tried not to wonder if there was a betting pool about me getting in the door. Or that Kamizuki had apparently bet against me. I didn't have time to think about that right now. Nobody was kicking me out at the risk of becoming Anko's punching bag, so I had until she was done with work before I was dragged out of here!

In my first move, I dashed off towards Midoko Yao, a member of the Detection Division, to watch how they maintained the barrier's interface. Nohara Kakoi, Leader of the Detection Division and guy in charge of maintaining the Barrier for the last few decades, looked down at me like I was nothing more than a inconvenient child when I approached. Which, I technically was, but that didn't mean I was going to leave until they forcibly dragged me out. I probably looked completely star-struck to him as I began pestering those that would let me, and when that failed I nearly pressed my nose to the floor as I inspected the carefully carved Kanji surrounding the basin. - All the Kanji was north-facing. Was magnetic orientation important in seal conception? - Giving the occasional aweing glance up at the suspended orb of water that just radiated a Gentle and Alluring chakra, a signature all of it's own.

I'd never been much of an art nerd in this life or the last, but if I had to describe something as 'breath-taking' or 'awe-inspiring', then it would be Mito Uzumaki's grand creation right here.

It was beautiful.

By the time it was to finally leave I was still taking mental notes of the layering designs on the walls - wait, wait, wait! Was that string INVERTED? What the actual hell does that mean?! You can't INVERT a STRING- when Anko pinched my ear and began dragging me towards the door. The entire way to the Training Grounds I was nearly begging - Groveling. You were groveling at her feet, Sky-girl - Anko to take me along with her the next time she had work there. There was resistance and denial at first, but I persevered. She consented only after I basically swore to become her personal bakery, delivering her homemade sweet treats anytime she wanted for the foreseeable future.

I might've just made a deal with the Devil, but I had a hard time regretting it when I thought about the potential knowledge that was at stake. Terra did enough regretting my life choices enough for us.

Perspective:
(Sun)

"I'm hoooome...!" I said tiredly, kicking off my sandals and walking inside. Boy, training was exhausting! I wasn't any closer to summoning a bigger toad yet I was still wearing myself out from trying so much! I even trained until way past sundown today!

I was hanging up my jacket on a nail when I noticed that some music was playing from the radio in the kitchen, looking around I didn't spot Sora-chan in the kitchen or table like usual, but when I looked inside the living room I found her hunched over on the floor with a buncha papers spread around her. Huh, she must've been writing something really important if she didn't even look up when I walked in. My stomach tightened up and I placed my hand over it as it growled. Uraaaah, it's way past dinner-time! I wonder if Sora-chan made any food yet? I thought about asking but decided against it. She seemed really focused and I didn't want to distract her...

Frowning after checking around the kitchen, I could tell that there hasn't been any food made today. And it didn't look like Sora-chan has eaten anything either! There wasn't any snacks or anything! Man, I really hope she hasn't been skipping eating again! I sighed and opened up the cupboard, grabbing two salt ramen cups down before I put the kettle on the stove. My eyes started getting heavy as I listened to the radio while waiting for the water to boil, it was playing the kind of music that old grandma's liked so much. Well, old grandma's and Sora-chan.

Sora-chan bought that radio right after we got paid for our first C-Rank for Old Man Tazuna and Inari. It was cheap, small and kinda dinged up so I didn't understand why she had been so excited when she brought it home. It only tuned into two channels, but when Sora-chan had turned it on and music started playing... man, she had the biggest grin on her face!

The water boiled and Sora-chan still hadn't lifted her head from her papers by the time I brought the food over, setting her cup on the low table. I quietly said my thanks and dug in, blowing on it a second to cool it down. Then something funny happened just as I started eating.

Sora-chan's stomach growled. Loudly.

Her head popped up looked up at me and she blinked, her purple eyes looked from me to the ramen before she looked back at me. She smiled sheepishly and put down her pen and signed, 'Welcome Home, Hero.'

Perspective:
(Sky)

Sora, June 20th—Training Grounds 34
(Days Until Invasion: 12)

I wanted to scream in glee with all the force my body would physically allow.

Anko boot-kicked me in the stomach when I let my guard down because I was struck with a moment of inspiration. It did nothing to damper my mood and she looked at me like I was insane for curling up on the ground with a huge-ass grin on my face. Even Irabu with his beady-ass eyes gave me a weird look—but it didn't matter, becaaauuuse...

I. Figured. It. OUT.

Sora, June 21th—(1:04 AM)—Home

I opened my eyes to my dark room, feeling a chakra presence leave just as quick as it came.

I scrubbed the wetness from my face - tears, leftover from a sweet, tender memory of my lost love - as my vision adjusted in the darkness. I didn't get a solid feel on the chakra before it vanished. Just enough to wake me up.

A breeze swept in from the window, rustling the curtains and drawing my attention to the mess on my floor. The mess I hadn't made, under the window I hadn't left open. That was annoying. Also, telling.

Apparently Gaara can get his sand to flip open window latches. Good to know.

I crawled out of bed and bent over to pick up the shredded remains of The Seven Voyages of Sinbad. Well, I picked up the biggest chunk of it, being the spine of the book and most of the cover. The rest kinda just fluttered down to the ground in little flurries of torn paper and broken dreams. The thing looked like it was eaten by a damned blender with anger issues, then thrown in with a bunch of surly, illiterate cats to be thoroughly destroyed. Now here, I was glad I had the forethought to make this copy specially for the ultra-violent demon container and kept the original draft safely stored on my bookshelf.

I had hoped this wouldn't happen, but I didn't dismiss the possibility of it.

Haaah... that sucks.

I flipped on the lamp by my desk and got back to work on my theory. There was still a couple more hours before the sun rose and my day began all over again. Lack of sleep and overwhelming disappointment about Gaara's hatred of books aside, I still had a lot to do and not much time to do it. I threw myself back into it.

It's all baby steps, Sora. Baby steps.

Sora, June 21st—Outskirts of the Konoha Hot Springs
(Days Until Invasion: 11)

Jiraiya stared incredulously.

I was barely containing myself from throwing my head back and cackling.

"You... you want to try what with the housing base?" he asked, a little pitchy.

I underlined the theory impatiently, foot tapping against the ground. There might've been a little hint of hysteria in my expression but I blamed it on the sleep deprivation and the overexertion from the daily physical and elemental manipulation training. How my expression comes across to other people is no longer my responsibility. Hazard of the trade, unfortunately.

The Toad Sage plucked the pad out of my grasp and threw it over his shoulder.

My jaw fell open.

"You can't invert a Seal housing!" he said, like it was some indisputable fact.

I then pulled out a second notepad and began to dispute that very unsupported concept. Seriously. There is not one scrap of research materials in all of Konoha's Archives - at least everything that a Genin can have access to - that claims a Seal has to be orientated a certain kind of way! If anything, from what I understand about the way the Barrier's Squad's Fūinjutsu Array was arranged is that orientation is subjective! Meaning that it's up to the designer's discretion. I wrote all this out furiously and turned the pad up for him to read—and Jiraiya yelped and grabbed the side of his head as something collided with it.

I looked down to see the pad he chucked a minute ago. I blinked, looking in the direction it came from. Naruto, from where he was a little ways down by the river, was scowling in our direction.

"DON'T THROW THINGS AT ME, YOU SHITTY PERVERT!" he shouted. A vein bulged in Jiraiya's forehead and he took in a large breath to start yelling, but I took a moment to notice and appreciate just how far the Hero's aim has improved! He was a good dozen yards away and he hit that old pervert's head dead-on!

I was so proud.

It took several hours and two snack breaks until I had completely and utterly broken his will to debate any longer.

There was a moment after I finished explaining my hypothesis - in full, uncensored, gruesome detail - when his eyes kind of... sparkled. The moment didn't last of course, because he then proceeded to brutally tear apart our Chakra Siphoning sketches to see what elements of it could be applied and used for our extremely hypothetical and potentially game-changing seal. While our Siphoning Seal needed some tweaking that I was 76% sure that could be fixed by flipping a few strings of Kanji, now that we've agreed upon the concept of transposing—but that's another subject altogether and not the one I was currently obsessing over. I was talking about something else.

Focus—Siphoning Seal!

The very same concept, once turned on it's head could theoretically pump chakra into an object, overloading it's network and chakra capacity and causing absolute system failure. Lethal on most all living beings. 'Theoretically.' Heavily emphasis on that since there's been no practical testing, quite yet. But when attached to an insentient object/surface that just so happens to be powered with an excess of chakra being pumped into it? Can you guess what happens then? Huh? Gold star to the first right answer~

Does It

'No one asked you.' I quickly shut down.

Then Who The Fuck Di

I felt a shiver run up my spine then, and ignored it completely.

I call it... The Barrier Buster.

—Entry 322

April 16th, Thursday
(1766 Days since meeting Orochimaru-sama)

For once in what feels like a lifetime ago, I feel genuine eagerness for what is to come that it fills me with delight.

After my body's unfortunate rejection of the Transference Seal, Orochimaru-sama has appointed me in charge of finding a suitable subject to become his next host. In the months since, I have conducted a vast search across the continent for an ideal and compatible host for Orochimaru-sama. To this end I have been using the skills Orochimaru-sama had taught me about infiltration and have been traveling the countries as a wandering circus performer.

Even with the growing tensions between the nations and what Orochimaru-sama has warned me about the Third Shinobi War on the horizon, this troupe I have found myself with has proven very efficient in crossing borders without detection. They have allowed me greater freedom than if I had been traveling by myself, and have given me many opportunities to conduct my search.

So far the results have been extremely dissatisfying. There has yet to have been a subject suitable enough to consider acting as a host for Orochimaru-sama. I have deemed them all to be undesirable and found wanting in some way. I blame myself. I am afraid my standards might be a fraction too high for the average human to meet. But truly, Orochimaru-sama deserves nothing less than a perfect specimen to inhabit. Which brings me to the purpose of this entry.

Today, after yet another evaluation had been rejected I had been walking by a tailor when I has seen a woman and her child inside. The child was being fitted for a formal kimono and had every inch of her body rigorously measured. She stood without complaint as her mother and the tailor flitted about to tuck and sew, ensuring that the kimono would be perfect in every way imaginable. A thought occurred to me as I watched them.

If I cannot find perfection, then why not create perfection?

A host made up of the genetic makeup of two clans that Orochimaru-sama has long respected, and the bloodline traits they carry with them: The Uzumaki vitality and the Sharingan of the Uchiha. It would be everything that he has desired in a body. It would be beyond his expectations, actually. The wonder of how he'll react to my idea has me on a caravan back to the Land of Fire this very moment to see him. It has been many long and tiresome months since I've spoken with Orochimaru-sama, and my chest aches with every passing day still. Many times I close my eyes and remember the moments he has looked on me with fondness and I cannot help but smile when I imagine how approving he'll look after I explain my proposal to him.

I will create a host for him to inherit using my own natural asset as a child bearer.

It would be… perfect.

Montage Arc,

Chapter Fifty-One: "Now, theoretically…"

END

A/N: This chapter originally had SO much more blood and death than this version. I calmed my inner nihilist down and let some certain people live. Certain people that were meant to die horrible, painful deaths. I won't name names but let's just say a certain swordsman fiancée was supposed to be left broken-hearted. (You might have an idea whom I am referring to) Instead we have Sora being spastic and having Naruto look after her for a change, which is honestly endearing to write! Then there was Ikari. Yes, her story is still going and we are getting deeper into it. That last lines isn't even the end, we got two more chapters to see some more of her crazy, folks. Besides that there were a couple of OC's I threw in for fun, like Ino's aunt Inomayu, and Nohara Kakoi. Who is most definitely Rin's Dad, just gonna throw that in there. Rin's family was never really - at all - mentioned so while I was researching the Konoha Barrier Squad I took one look at this guy and dubbed him as Rin's Dad.

Side note, I had also originally planned on not posting any chapters until I finished the rest of the arc but as you should all know by now I am a hypocrite with no real self-control. So, here's a chapter and I'll crawl back into my little mushroom house over here to finish the rest... okay?! I promise! It's happening! I've even got things planned for AFTER the Finals too! Really, there's so much crap planned out... I dread thinking about for too long. I have to focus on one chapter at a time.

Okay, a moment to gush about the incredible support that you guys have given me over the last few months has been... it's really gotten me through this with my sanity mostly intact. Everything is still so crazy right now, but I hope that all of you guys keep holding onto the sanity you've got left too. It won't be like this forever, we'll make it through.

Author Question: "Superman or Batman?" *grabs popcorn and throws on shades, watching the chaos ensue*

Obviously, the winner for best dressed would go to Deadpool. Duh. What? You thought I was talking about something else and had only the option choosing between two men who's Mother's names were Martha!? You fools!

Remember, you are loved. You might not see it. You might not be able to hear or touch it, but you are terribly beloved.
-Nanami

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